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Projects

Advanced Identity Representation (AIR) Project

Steam-Player-Preference Analyzer and the AIR Status Performance Classifier

In this work, we investigate how people exhibit and construct forms of self-expression in virtual environments including computational systems such as online social networks, or videogames. For example, in everyday life people dress in certain ways to reflect their individual senses of fashion, thereby expressing their social and personal knowledge regarding clothing. However, looking at a large number of people, distinctive categories may become apparent such as “formal,” “business casual,” or “leisurewear.” Such identity-related phenomena take place in computational systems as well.

In representing oneself in computational systems, certain aspects of one's identity, including preferences and knowledge, are imparted. By comparing and contrasting these representations between the different computational systems, we may begin to understand how these systems support, or hinder, the user in terms of representing themselves adequately. More importantly, we may begin to identify, and model, phenomena that exists within the real world computationally too, enabling us as developers and designers to understand the consequences and implications of choices made in the development and design of such systems.

Chimeria

Everyone belongs to social categories based on factors such as musical preference, fashion, gender, or race. Yet, some category members are more central, privileged, or marginalized than others. Membership in such social categories is also dynamic: whether someone is a member or not may change over time, both within and between groups. Chimeria is a system to help people better understand social categorization phenomena such as marginalization and the dynamics of group membership. Chimeria does this through an interactive narrative. Consider the following story on a music-oriented social network:

A punk rock music fan decides to listen to a little jazz. She listens to a couple of albums by the jazz musician Thelonious Monk, but however, still continues to post messages only about punk rock. She grows tired of being a punk rocker (who dabbles in jazz on the side), so listens again only to hardcore punk rock music. But now, upon returning back to punk rock, punk rock seems to have lost its luster. She finally decides to forsake punk rock and become a jazz fan...for good.

In this story, a central member of a category moves toward the margins of the category, back toward the center, and finally changes categories altogether at the end. This pattern of movement within and between categories is the sort of phenomenon that Chimeria models mathematically. The story could have been one of racial or gender group membership; but for the initial version of Chimeria we have chosen music-related identity as a focus domain.

These dynamics of group membership are simulated in Chimeria using an artificial intelligence (AI)-driven interactive story. Users interact with various characters within a novel social networking interface. Based on a player’s musical preferences and decisions in an online conversation, the system dynamically generates an interactive conversation centered upon snippets of music that takes place between the user and the other characters. This interactive conversation, grounded in a sociolinguistics model of conversational narrative, allows an engaging experience in which players may encounter various social category membership phenomena which occur in the real-world.

Mimesis

Online social networks and video games are prevalent in today’s society, and using both video game characters and social networking profiles cam potentially be used to help people better understand others’ experiences, delivering meaningful experiences which enable critical reflection upon one’s identity, and on others’ experiences related to identity. However, merely customizing graphical representations and text fields are insufficient to convey the richness of our real world identities.

AIR Toolkit Development

AIR Toolkit Development

The Advanced Identity Representation (AIR) Project ($535,060/5 years, NSF CAREER Award #0952896) is a new transdisciplinary approach to the problem of designing identity technologies to enable imaginative self-representations and to counter social stigmas by implementing dynamic social identity models grounded in computing and cognitive science.

Gestural Narrative Interactive Expression

Gestural Narrative Interactive Expression (GeNIE) Project

Gestural Narrative Interactive Expression (GeNIE) Project

The Gestural Narrative Interactive Expression (GeNIE) Project (NEH Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant) aims to develop and better understanding the use of gestural interfaces for expressive works of interactive narrative. Gestural interfaces have become more popular with the increasing prevalence of systems such as the Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Kinect for Xbox 360, mobile phones with multi-touch screens and built-in gyroscopes and accelerometers, and laptop computers equipped with touchpads.

GRIOT Projects

Living Liberia Fabric

The Living Liberia Fabric, initiated in affiliation with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Liberia, is an interactive, web-based narrative supporting the goal of lasting peace after years of civil war (1979-2003). It links concerns for liberation, dignity, and the future with needs for cultural foundations, human rights, truth, and reconciliation. Our system is based in Liberia's culture and the specifics of the conflicts, hence representing our cultural computing perspective.

Loss, Undersea

Loss, Undersea is an interactive narrative/multimedia semantics project by Fox Harrell in which a character moving through a standard workday encounters a world submerging into the depths -- a double-scope story of banal life blended with a fantastic Atlantean metaphor. As a user selects emotion-driven actions for the character to perform, the character transforms -- sea creature extensions protrude and calcify around him -- and poetic text narrating his loss of humanity and the human world undersea ensues.

Generative Visual Renku

Generative Visual Renku

The Generative Visual Renku project presents a new form of concrete polymorphic poetry inspired by Japanese renku poetry, iconicity of Chinese character forms, and generative models from contemporary art. Calligraphic iconic illustrations are composed by the system with both visual and conceptual constrains in response to user actions into a fanciful topography articulating the nuanced interplay between organic (natural or hand-created) and modular (mass-produced or consumerist) artifacts that saturate our lives.

Memory, Reverie Machine

Memory, Reverie Machine

Memory, Reverie Machine (MRM) is a text-based computational narrative system that is informed by stream of consciousness literature, cognitive linguistic theory of blending and analogy, artificial intelligence research and conventions of Interactive Fiction (IF). The system generates stories in which the main character shifts dynamically along a scale between a user-controlled avatar with low intentionality and an autonomous non-player character with high intentionality.

The Griot Sings Haibun

The Griot Sings Haibun

A griot is a revered storyteller in many parts of the African Diaspora. "The Griot Sings Haibun,"is an improvised performance of music, poetry, image, and computation. Live musicians fuel collective improvisation with Harell's GRIOT, a cybernetic system on which a human "plays" an ever-changing polypoem, an interactive multimedia polymorphic narrative poem. The core of GRIOT is the novel Alloy algorithm to generate new concepts and metaphors by blending, based on recent research in cognitive linguistics, computer science, and semiotics.

The Girl With Skin of Haints and Seraphs

The Girl With Skin of Haints and Seraphs

The Girl with Skin of Haints and Seraphs is a polymorphic poem first implemented in a non-interactive form as the initial deployment of the Alloy algorithm for generative purposes within another system. It has been subsequently updated with each iteration of GRIOT and it provides a good example for tracing through the execution of an interactive polymorphic poem. As stated above, this polypoem is a commentary on racial politics, the limitations of simplistic binary views of social identity, and the need for more contingent, dynamic models of social identity.

Additional Projects

Re/Search: Art, Science, and Information Technology

This joint workshop between the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to develop a national agenda for funding and collaboration integrating the arts and computing/information science. The event gathered 55 international thought leaders in the area. Attendees included leaders from the NSF and NEA, deans of arts programs, professors of computer science, nonprofit leaders, independent artists, and others advancing digital media and new forms of expression.

Define Me: Chimera

Define Me: Chimera

DefineMe: Chimera is a social networking (Facebook) application in which users define metaphorical profiles and avatars for each other, and several games and avatar creation systems where users' representations change dynamically based upon social context, user interaction, and artifact use. The DefineMe database is designed to be lightweight, dynamic, and extensible, while implementing categorical relationships between members.

Chameleonia

Chameleonia

Chameleonia: Days of Lost Selves is a prototype sketch of a game based on shifting identities where the construction of self is at stake. Players make gestures associated with traits such as aggression, commerce, ideology, and more. Player's avatars, and their opponents', then transform in response. One moment the player character is a bazooka-toting cowgirl/boy sipping a softdrink - at the next moment a gold chain and pocketwatch wearing tycoon with stock charts bursting from its top-hatted head.

Student Work

Note: The works below represent prototypes from student projects aproximately 3 weeks in duration.

Abstract Avatar

Abstract Avatar

Abstract Avatar allows for users to construct graphical self-representations akin to social networking profiles. These representations are composed of basic media elements such as uploaded images, text, and multimedia files, connected to each other in a self-determined graph structure. Bloggers can attach links to avatars, which readers can access upon receipt of permission. Abstract Avatar was created by the quartet of B.S. computational media students: Allen Morrison, Michael Groves, Kristi Champion, Charles Gunnell in Dr. Harrell's course LCC 3314: Technologies of Representation.

Avatar Breeder

Avatar Breeder

Avatar Breeder is a genetic algorithm-based procedurally generative satirical artwork constructed by Daniel Upton and Jisun An in Dr. Harrell's graduate course LCC 6312: Design, Technology, and Representation. It is intended to undermine normative categories of identity encountered on bureaucratic forms and in everyday lived experience. In such discrete categorization systems, ethnic identities can be based on geography, nationality, ancestry, family, culture and sub-culture, religion, language, race or any combination of these.